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Saturday, 23 October 2021
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College promotes intergenerational pen friends as no-contact way to volunteer this UK Charity Week

PAIRS of intergenerational pen pals have sprung up all over St Helens, Merseyside, thanks to a successful lockdown project.

A Carmel Sixth Form College initiative has seen a number of unlikely friendships forged across the generations.

Vikki Moran, the college’s work experience coordinator, was looking for a way for students to volunteer with their local community whilst face-to-face interaction was not possible. Thursday 10 December is Volunteers’ Day, as part of the national UK Charity Week [#UKCharityWeek] campaign.

Vikki hit upon the idea of reaching out to the region’s residential homes, by compiling a weekly email newsletter full of the students’ letters, poems, stories, drawings and photos.

Seven editions of the newsletter, titled Carmel Gifts, have now been shared with the people who live at 40 local residential homes.

College promotes intergenerational pen friends as no-contact way to volunteer this UK Charity Week
Demi Leigh

Demi-Leigh Peet and Teresa and are just one pair of pals who have been sharing details of their lives over email.

Teresa, 64, is living with mental illness and has battled cancer and is a resident at Sherdley Court in Prescot, which is operated by national adult health and social care charity Making Space.

Teresa, who has lived at Sherdley Court since 2008, replied to a handwritten letter from 16-year-old A-level student Demi-Leigh.

Demi-Leigh is studying psychology, law and criminology and wants to be a detective. She wrote about her passions, which include going to the gym, family parties and seeing her friends. Teresa replied that when she was 16, she had a boyfriend with a Lambretta scooter and she used to love riding on the back of it.

Project coordinator Vikki Moran said:

“We encourage all of our 2,000 students to do work experience placements, but obviously they are on hold at the moment although we do have some remote graphic design and teaching work experience going ahead.

“I was trying to come up with something the students could do to get them outside of their own lives and to think about how lockdown is impacting on other people.

“The students loved the idea of a weekly email exchange and have shared everything from pdfs of their favourite books, to Spotify playlists and photos of the local area.

“College staff have been getting involved too, sending pictures of their children and pets and it has been so lovely to see the replies coming back from care home residents.”

Hayley Rowson de Vares, residential manager, Sherdley Court, said:

“This is such an important project and it is really brightening everyone’s Fridays.

“Encouraging communication between the generations brings something special for both young and older people and it’s fantastic to see this continuing despite the current physical restrictions on mixing.”

Carmel College hopes once it is safe, to continue its relationship with residential homes by sending in students to teach ICT skills to residents.

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